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A day in the life Of...
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A day in the life of ... Alex Laing

Date:22 MAY 2018
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Alex Laing is a barrister at Coram Chambers. He was awarded Family Law Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year at the Family Law Awards 2017.

What is your position and what do you do on a  day-to-day basis?

I am a barrister. I practise in family law. I split my time between arguing in (and out) of court, giving legal advice on paper or face-to-face and, at the moment, book writing. It is great fun. And massively rewarding.

How long have you been in this role and what brought you here?

I have been a (proper) barrister for 2.5 years. I was lucky to do a few fun things before coming to the Bar. I worked for the United Nations in a Central American nation haunted by gang crime, I taught English at 3,000m above sea level in the Andes mountains and I tapas-ed my way around university in Spain. But, really, I have known for a while that I wanted to be a barrister.

Any memorable stories from your career so far?

Every day is a story. People’s lives are endlessly fascinating.

What is the best and worst part of the day for you?

Best part? Those cases in which you feel that you have made a significant difference to your client’s life: be that by winning their case or presenting it in a fashion that gives them real dignity and a voice. It – genuinely – makes all the late nights and early mornings worth it.

Worst part? Those long, headache-inducing days in which you are battered about from an angry client in a hot waiting room, to angry opponents in stuffy corridors, to an angry judge in a claustrophobic court room.

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What keeps you motivated?

Predictably: a desire to see justice done and to help vulnerable people.

Even more predictably: I now have a mortgage to pay.

Tea or coffee?

Peppermint tea. I am (mostly) caffeine-free.

What would you say to anyone thinking of a career in your field?

The most striking characteristic of life at the Bar is self-employment and all the good and bad that brings. I love it. But it is not for everyone.

What song do you listen to the most?

Being a true millennial, my soundtrack to 2017 was Despacito. My 2018 one is yet to be defined.

Who inspires you within the world of family law?

I hold deep respect for all of those who, on a daily basis, put their client’s interests above their own, devoting hours and hours of unpaid work to their client’s cause, not always to be rewarded with a 'thank you'. In Coram Chambers, I have many such colleagues.

How do you enjoy your time outside of work?

Sun, sea, running, food, friends and my girlfriend. (Not in order of priority, of course).

What book would you recommend to others?

I read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal earlier this year. It is a deeply thought-provoking critique of the way society treats death. Otherwise, for pure escapism, I am a massive Hardy fan. I also start holidays by reading a sneaky Grisham on the plane.

What would be your alternate career?

If I had the eloquence, I would be a novelist, writing with a view of the sea.

If you could change one thing about the family justice system what would it be and why?

Buf. Where to start? The massive pressure on everyone involved? The crumbling court infrastructure? Entering a court room, flanked by a client for whom the next hour will define much in their life, to be greeted by a judge who is so busy that they cannot possibly have had enough time to understand the gritty details of the case they will adjudicate? These are significant issues that we – family law practitioners, the family justice system, the State – need to consider with great care. Without proper funding and access to justice, we undermine the rule of law.

What has winning the Family Law Award meant to you?

I was proud to be honoured by the trustees of the National Pro Bono Centre and am pleased to be able to highlight the importance of pro bono work [see Alex's recent article in Family Law May 'Why pro-bono?' [2018] Fam Law 361].

Nominations close soon for the Family Law Awards 2018

All Family Law A day in the life of... profiles can be found here.